A leading voice in South African literature and a strong critic of the Apartheid era (he was the first Afrikaans novelists to have a work banned), André Brink passed away in February this year, and Philida was his last published novel before passing.
Philida is a slave who takes advantage of new laws that, amoung other things, allow slaves to file complaints against their masters in 19th century South Africa. Her complaint involves Francois Gerhard Jacob Brink, her master’s son, to whom she bore four children, and who promised her freedom and shoes—the sign that distinguishes slaves and animals from people. But in a land where tradition weaves ownership and cruelty, new laws are simply flies buzzing around an open wound.
The various tellers of the tale include Philida, Francios, his father Cornelius, and Petronella, a freed slave still living on the Brink farm. Biblical parables, family lineage, and folklore are knitted, stretched, and crumpled together in this tale where the fabric of South Africa's future without slavery is interrogated, with the results as brutal as the traditions.